In the sixteenth century, under the imperial patronage of the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736), the craft of rug weaving became greatly elevated in status and prestige. Royal workshops produced large and sumptuous carpets of great technical sophistication. This medallion rug's composition and color scheme suggest that it came from Herat in the eastern realm of ancient Persia (present-day Eastern Iran). In a manner typical of carpets from this region, it shows the influence of both Indian and classical Persian rug weaving.
This fragment represents the top half of a carpet that was originally some thirty feet long. It is virtually unsurpassed among existing Persian carpets in grace and complexity of design, fineness of weave, and rich color. The rug bears the central medallion design characteristic of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Persian carpets. The field is embellished with elaborate palmettes and cloud bands derived from Chinese art motifs; these form the backdrop for a carefully designed system of scrolling vines inhabited by birds. The border consists of a series of interlocking units that create an elegant pattern of alternating circular and elongated medallions.